No Kids Art Show this summer? Art Show director Linda Bell surely hopes that won't happen.
"It's very important that the Kids Art Show does not go away," she
Yet since former Kids Show committee leader Sue Loehr moved to Lebanon, Linda
has contacted several people whose names were suggested as possible
replacements. So far, however, no one has said yes. "And it's February
already," says Linda.
(Dale Grundon photo)
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STIRRING, SELECTING & SUSTAINING
 If you were a teen in the days
before JFK's inaugural, you're apt to love this Gretna Theater preview video of the 2009 season
opener -- guaranteed to stir
memories for anyone who ever sipped cokes, cruised drive-ins in convertibles
and rocked with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.
 Auditions for this season's
productions begin March 7 at the Mt.
Gretna fire hall; and in New York March 16, 19, 20 and 21.
 Development director Roger
Sands has an armful of ways to
help this year -- buying tickets, advertising in the 12,000-copy playbill and
making generous donations that, now more than ever, are needed to sustain Mt.
Gretna's live theater tradition. Email him at: email@example.com
 Two years of gypsy month
attacks and drought continue to reverberate with devastating impact on
the trees surrounding Mt. Gretna.
State game land officials last month announced that another 3,400 trees will
be coming down west of town along Route 117. That's in addition to the 10,700
already slated for removal as logging trucks start making their four or five
daily trips down Pinch Road in coming weeks.
Game land officials say they'll spray for gypsy moths again this spring, but
they point out the difficulties. "We're trying to protect trees that are
nearly 100 years old," says forester Dave Henry. "Trees are like
people. The older they get, the more vulnerable they are to stress."
The latest tree harvest involves an 11-acre stand of dead white oaks, plus 29
additional acres of Tulip Poplars (part of a shelterwood regenerating project) near Colebrook. He expects they'll be cut
down in April, about the time that logging operations wind up atop Pinch
Road. That project, originally scheduled for completion in January, was
delayed by sharp declines in lumber prices which slowed sawmill work
schedules, Dave says.
 Yes, they'll spray for gypsy moths again this year (see aerial spray zones online). But, in Mt. Gretna -- where trees are integral to a way of
life --no one should be lulled into complacency.
True, the insect's egg mass counts appear to be down this year. But airborne
sprays aren't always effective. So officials counsel vigilance once the
spraying is finished. "If you detect a problem, call in a tree service
right away," borough president Chuck Allwein advised a Mt. Gretna Area
Historical Society gathering last week.
County forester Leigh Beamesderfer cites another difficulty: Owners have the
right to object to aerial insecticide sprays over their property. If that
happens, helicopter pilots must avoid spraying within a 500 ft. buffer zone.
"In a place like Mt. Gretna, 500 ft. can affect a lot of other
properties," she says.
REAL ESTATE SALES SLOW TO A ROCKING CHAIR
Actress Sally Struthers, winding up a two-week run as "Patsy
Cline" at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse a few years ago, confided to her
closing-night audience, "When I get back to L.A., I'm gonna build me a
After being in town only two weeks, the "All in the Family" star
had put her finger precisely on a compelling attraction of Mt. Gretna real
estate: Quiet evenings chatting with friends on front porches, afternoons in
a rocking chair while reading a book, and childhood memories of days spent
out on the porch playing board games -- all of which also help to explain the
enduring appeal of Mt. Gretna cottages and why this real estate market
is among the last to feel the pinch of a recession.
"People usually don't buy property here with the hope of making a quick
profit," realtor Fred Schaeffer told us a few years ago. He should know: He's been tracking
local real estate transactions -- including homes sold privately -- for a
Yet in recent months even Mt. Gretna real estate has been
buffeted by recessionary winds. The number of properties for sale -- while
still under 2% of Mt. Gretna's 708 homes and cottages -- nevertheless stood
at 13 last week. Not many by most standards. But close to a record wintertime
high for Mt. Gretna, where typically only 25 to 35 homes and cottages change
hands in an entire year. "And we haven't even begun the prime selling
season," says Fred.
A cursory look at last year's sales statistics is misleading, he points
out. "They don't show the slowing in the second half of the year,
when the economy tanked. Even though rates are at historic lows, nothing is
selling. Today's sellers have lots of competition," he says.
Another industry veteran, Emi Snavely concurs: "There are more homes on the market in Mt. Gretna
than I've seen in years." But, she adds emphatically, "It's not
because of the product!" In fact, she suggests there's never been
a better time for buyers. She points out that investing in a second home in
Mt. Gretna is "far more secure than the stock market. You have something
to show for your money," she says.
Joe Wentzel, who's been selling real estate for the past 25 years, agrees
that today's low rates make now a great time to buy. "Here in Mt.
Gretna, we're still in a decent market. Prices have come down slightly, but
overall it's still good." Nevertheless, he points out that marketing
methods are changing. "We are finding that newspaper ads are going to be
a thing of the past. Last year, about 75% of our business came as a result of
the Internet. There are many avenues to advertise, and that is where most people
spend their time -- on the Internet," he says.
AT A GLANCE: MT. GRETNA'S
Median selling price
Homes currently for
*The 4% decline is
attributed to more summer cottages being sold last year than in 2007. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 For this year's art show: A favorable forecast. Show director Linda
Bell says she hasn't seen anything yet to suggest that the sluggish economy
will hurt this year's art show, even though artist applications may be coming
in just a tad slower than usual. But experience shows that about 40% of
artist applications don't arrive until 10 days or so before the April 1
Linda regards "slowdown" talk as mostly media hype. "I've gotten
numerous calls from artists with questions about applying this year, so the
outlook is good," she says.
Now in its 35th year the show uses the ZAAP system -- a national
electronic network for art show applications that eliminates the old
fashioned method of submitting photographic slides. Around the third weekend
in April, four judges spend a full day evaluating the work of 500 to 600
artists, nominating those that will receive invitations to exhibit during the
Aug. 15-16 show.
Linda advertises the "call for entries" with ads in nationally
circulated magazines as well as post card mailings to some 2,700 artists
across the country.
Proceeds from the show -- which annually attracts 15,000 to 20,000 people and
raised around $50,000 last year -- go to fund community-wide projects and
services. They help pay for fire company equipment, a generator for the
town's biggest well, summer movies and book review programs, landscaping
projects, a fire hydrant that can draw water from the lake during
emergencies, as well as funding that helps underwrite performances at the
Linda invites anyone who's curious about how art show funds are used each
year to stop by her office and view the books. She also encourages funding
requests from any organization that will benefit people in Mt. Gretna.
 Growing up along Valley Road,
Erin Hannigan scooped ice cream at the Jigger Shop. Now, as principal oboist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra,
she's scooping up applause, awards and growing fame.
She'll appear this month with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. When the DSO
travels next month, a few Mt. Gretna snowbirds in Florida may also get a
chance to hear her.
Parents Stacy and Tim Hannigan recently caught her performance of Mozart's
"Sinfonia Concertante" with three other DSO principal
players. And listeners throughout the country are hearing her latest CD, "From HaFiz to Firewing (and beyond)," aired on
Public Broadcasting Stations, including WITF-FM.
 Looking for ways to brighten a frosty winter evening? Discover how
Elmer really did turn to Rossini when he sang to Bugs Bunny -- in a Feb. 28
concert presenting music that you probably first heard at the movies, when it
came time for the cartoons.
Other programs in Gretna Music's winter series include, on March 28, Haydn's Seven Last
Words of Christ on the Cross, "one of the most enduring testaments
of faith in music." Performances, at the Leffler Center, Elizabethtown
College, start at 7:30 p.m. Click here for online ticket orders and directions.
 Brightening a frosty morning
along Route 117 today (Feb. 2) will be Penny, the Penn Realty groundhog,
dispensing coffee, doughnuts and cheerful greetings. Making her fourth annual
appearance, Penny has never yet seen her shadow. But she has seen
skeptical five-year-olds in Carol Mather's nursery school class across the
street, who usually have tougher questions than the White House press corps.
 Art works by Mt. Gretnans
Eva Bender and Lou Schellenberg join paintings, sketches, palettes and
process work of 13 other top area artists at a work-in-progress exhibit this
month at Elizabethtown's Lynden Gallery.
Titled "Palette/Palate Study," it opens with an artists' jazz
reception, 5 to 8 p.m., Feb. 13.
 Governor Dick
Park's next Polar Bear Amble begins at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7 with a moonlight
walk to the tower, listening and watching for owls and other nocturnal
animals. It's an opportunity to learn how the forest's inhabitants find food
in the dark. Meet at the Nature Center. Following the hike, there'll be hot chocolate and
Writer Ad Crable, in a Lancaster New Era column last month, described the spectacular daytime views available from
Governor Dick Tower -- glimpses of the Greist Building and new convention
center in downtown Lancaster 21 miles away, and "the
vapor-billowing towers of the Three-Mile Island nuclear plant and the thrills
of Hershey Park." It's one of several breathtaking scenes throughout
central Pennsylvania, open to all who are willing to give up a little time by
the fireside. "Winter, with the curtains of leaves and distorting
humidity gone and views opened up, is an excellent time" to get out and
explore the great outdoors, he suggests.